One of the best things about living in Tennessee, and in the Nashville area in particular is that it is so central, one reason why Nashville is the centre for many businesses.
You can drive in any direction and end up in a different state, a state that conjures up so many feelings, through songs for a start.
South you have Alabama – Birmingham, Montgomery, and after a seven-hour drive or more you will find yourself at the beautiful Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
A further twenty-minute drive east and you’re in Florida. The state line between Florida and Alabama has a small number of stores and bars; this is Flora-bama. Kenny Chesney just performed on the beach last summer with a free concert; you can catch it on CMT on demand.
A few hours east and you’ll drive into Georgia, capital Atlanta, which has the busiest airport in the world I believe, cargo and freight. It is also the closest airport to Nashville that has flights direct from the UK. Georgia is famous for its peaches of course, and its music – many of today’s top country artists hail from Georgia.
Also east of Nashville is North Carolina, Wilmington is a favorite of ours. There is actually a film studio there with many TV shows made there, including One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek.
And then there are the Smokey Mountains, with the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg is a bit more upmarket, with art studios and unique shops, nestled at the bottom of the mountain range. Pigeon Forge is more commercial with tourist shops, carnival rides and Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park. It is the drive though into the mountains that I love and I was lucky enough to see a baby bear, in a tree, and get within twenty feet of it, before wondering where Mom was and making a quick retreat.
We stayed in a beautiful log cabin right in the mountains, complete with hot tub on the deck. All you could see was the mountains, with the smoke/clouds that give them their names, and listen to the wildlife.
West of Nashville is Memphis, and of course Graceland, Elvis’ home. I’ve been a number of times, taking friends. The two planes that are parked opposite you used to be able to go on but they are both currently on sale. Beale Street is a must, but it is only two blocks or so long. I prefer it during the day, out of season, when it is quite desolate. During the summer though, when it is so hot, they have street entertainment, live music etc., and of course at nighttime the street really comes to life. Memphis has quite a high crime rate but the city council are trying to improve this and investing money, hoping to attract businesses and more visitors. Graceland itself is not in the best area for example – empty shops and houses.
A bit further west you cross from Memphis, over the Mississippi and into Arkansas, whilst drive north and you’ll find yourself in Kentucky. Our land is about ten miles from the Kentucky border. We’ve been there twice so far, many people go there due to the lower sales tax and I believe no tax on food. This led to my song Bootlegger from Kentucky, as I’m sure people buy product and goods in Kentucky and bring it back into Tennessee where there is a higher tax, driving through the back roads. Tennessee though has no state income tax.
Laws are different between each state – tattoos for example, you have to be eighteen in Tennessee but in Alabama I think it is sixteen, Kentucky seventeen.
These states, cities and of course the mighty Mississippi have all inspired songs – Sweet Home Alabama obviously, Southern Man, Blue Moon over Kentucky, Kentucky Rain; Rainy Night in Georgia, the list goes on, and not to forget my own Ghosts of Tennessee and the aforementioned Bootlegger from Kentucky.